According to a report from Cal Matters, some questions are being raised about the state of California’s long-standing “grand bargain” between employers and employees on the matter of workers’ compensation. The report calls the grand bargain “under siege” in the era of the COVID-19 virus. In this blog post, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense lawyers provide an overview of the report from Cal Matters.
What is the Workers’ Compensation Grand Bargain?
More than 100 years ago, California legislators struck a “grand bargain” on workers’ compensation benefits. On the one hand, workers receive the right to recover workers’ compensation benefits without regard to employer liability. In return, workers’ compensation is generally an exclusive legal remedy. Employers are largely protected against personal injury lawsuits from their employees, and they are generally not liable for injuries/illnesses that are not directly connected to the workplace.
Workers’ Compensation Standards and COVID-19 Changes in California
When a person files for workers’ compensation benefits in California, they are not required to prove that their employer was negligent. However, they are generally required to prove that their injury/illness is genuinely work-related. Of course, this is not necessarily difficult—at least not in many cases. As an example, if a manufacturing worker was injured in a slip and fall on the shop floor, there is little doubt the accident is job-related.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some legislative changes. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill creating a “rebuttable presumption” for COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims. In effect, this flipped the legal standard on its head. These illnesses are presumed to be work-related, and the burden falls on the employer/insurance company to prove otherwise.
A COVID-19 Lawsuit is Challenging the “Exclusive Remedy” Provision
Not only have the COVID-19 related workers’ compensation reforms altered the burden of proof in California, but a recent lawsuit seeks to further erode the grand bargain. As reported by Cal Matters, a California woman has filed a lawsuit against her employer alleging that she contracted COVID-19 in the workplace. Sadly, she later infected her husband who passed away due to complications from the virus. On an initial review, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in her favor.
As an interested party told reporters from Cal Matters, the judge’s decision, if upheld, has the potential to “could subject employers across the state to potentially unlimited tort liability.” Our Fresno, CA workers’ compensation defense lawyers will keep a close watch on this case and any related legal or legislative developments.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a California Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our top-rated Fresno workers’ compensation defense lawyers are zealous, solutions-centered advocates for clients. If you need legal guidance, we are here as a reliable source of information. Give us a call now or connect with us online for confidential support. Our law firm handles claims before the following district Appeals Boards, Fresno, Bakersfield, Sacramento, Stockton, Redding, San Jose, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, and Van Nuys.